I often wonder what people mean when they say, “People are hurting.” The expression is usually mentioned as a reference to the economic conditions people have been experiencing and is informed by your own lived experience or whom you know. The economic conditions of the lowest income families have never been good but became worse over the last year, and Blacks/African Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the economic slowdown because of the fallout of COVID-19. This is reflected in who is now falling into homelessness. At Hildebrand, we have seen this change in the last year in the families we shelter.
Latinos have historically been the largest racial group of families at Hildebrand, constituting 49% of those we served, followed by Blacks/AA 45%, White and all others 6%. By the end of 2020, a shift occurred such that Blacks/African Americans now make up 57.85% of families in our emergency shelter program, more than all others combined, as Hispanic families dropped to 25%. This also outpaces the 2019 HUD Point in Time nationwide survey that reflected Blacks/AA families experiencing homelessness were 52% of all racial groups. This is alarming when put in a larger context: Blacks/AA only make up 6% of the population in Boston and 13% nationwide. This downward spiral toward emergency shelter is fueled by the Massachusetts unemployment rate still hovering around 10% for Blacks/AA in Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (it was 10.2% in February 2021).
In “normal” years, 44% of Hildebrand heads of households are employed. However, in 2020 it dropped to 31% with an average income of $12,000. Although not a panacea for the disparities that Blacks, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) face, there is a ray of hope for strengthening the pathway to self-sufficiency for low-income families, provided by the new American Rescue Plan.
The employment and income changes that continue to drive families into homelessness make the implementation of the American Rescue Plan essential. President Joe Biden just signed into law the $1.9 trillion plan that is getting attention primarily because it will deliver $1,400 stimulus checks for many households. However, long after the checks have been spent or saved and then forgotten, it will be the lesser-discussed aspects of the Plan that should have the longer-range impact. At Hildebrand, we are excited about these aspects of the plan because they support our families moving toward economic stability.
The American Rescue Plan has many layers targeted at low-income households. The two biggest items that will bring improvements are the child tax credit (CTC) and the earned income tax credit (EITC). They will help 4.1 million of the country’s 11 million impoverished children. In Massachusetts households, 1.1 million children will be helped by these tax breaks for low-and moderate-income families. Here are some specific ways the American Rescue Plan will help low- and moderate-income families:
The family shelter system in Massachusetts has been an important part of the safety net for the most vulnerable families, and most who enter are considered extremely low income or at 30% of the area median income or lower. Massachusetts could help prevent families from falling into homelessness by following the federal government’s lead.
Massachusetts could help further by following suit on the federal tax credits. Rep. Marjorie Decker has already introduced a bill that that would:
Every year, 10,000 families in Massachusetts seek emergency shelter; 3,200 families enter shelter when diversion and safety net resources cannot be provided or are not enough. The majority of these people are young children.
The “people who are hurting” are mostly children from where I sit. We must be willing to help the parents in the process of lifting children out of poverty because that is what breaking the cycle of homelessness requires.
Our ancestors are watching because it’s our turn to pay it forward.
I feel the weight of those who fought for my right to vote on my shoulders every time I vote. It is a heavy weight, built on their sacrifice for my right to do so. There are so many who advocated, marched, and even died for African Americans’ right to vote, and no sacrifice was greater than Medgar Evers.
Medgar Evers was born in Decatur, Mississippi in 1925. He was a World War II veteran who was pressed into advocacy upon his return home. He and a few fellow Black veterans soon registered to vote in their hometown but were turned away and denied access to the polls by local White citizens. He turned his anger into advocacy when he became the filed secretary for the Jackson, Mississippi NAACP where, for eight years, he led the fight for civil rights long denied to Blacks in his state. On the morning of June 12, 1963, he returned home from a meeting with civil rights attorneys. His three young children announced to their mother that his dad had returned home. As Medgar exited his car, rifle shots were fired striking him. Medgar stumbled toward his house where he was met by his wife, Myrlie. He was taken to the local hospital where he was at first refused admission because he was Black. His wife pleaded for assistance, finally imploring the hospital to help him given his status in the NAACP. He was the first Black person to have ever been admitted to the hospital. He died 50 minutes later. He was 37.
This election is not just about your right to vote. Civil rights include the right to health care, housing, economic, and social justice.
“I was born in Decatur, was raised there, but never in my life was permitted to vote there.” –Medgar Evers
Your ancestors are calling. Pay it forward. Vote.
Shiela Y. Moore
Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center represents the lived experience of the disenfranchised, and the fight for equality. We stand with Black Lives Matter, aligned in our commitment to improve the lives of those we serve and dismantle systemic racism, a contributing factor to homelessness.
The fight to end homelessness is inexplicably tied to social, racial and economic justice. As sad and angry as we are about the death of George Floyd and many others, we are aware that communities of color face many forms of violence. Homelessness is violence; poverty and hunger are violence; over- incarceration, poor education and inadequate health care are all assaults on dignity, respect, opportunity, and humanity that tear at the fabric of family and community.
The ongoing pandemic has also had a devastating and disproportionate impact on communities of color and again, reveals their lack of access to medical care which contributes to poorer health outcomes. Hildebrand staff understands this and has been relentless in their efforts to keep families safe.
Homelessness is a condition that disproportionately effects black and brown people. Family homelessness is rooted in race and gender bias, wage inequality, unemployment, displacement (usually caused by gentrification or domestic violence), and housing discrimination and lack of affordability. Ninety percent of the families we serve are people of color who are Black and Latinx. We are in tough times and yet, times have always been tough for those we support. They have always faced an overwhelming confluence of issues, and Hildebrand has been the haven where families come to recover from the trauma brought on by each of these dehumanizing encounters.
Everywhere one looks there is a system that must be fixed, but now we find ourselves less alone in this fight. Recent events not only exposed racial injustices but, for us at Hildebrand, also illuminated the fact that we have always supported the most disenfranchised people, and that the organization itself was born from similar experiences. It is because Blacks were denied the ability to worship in white churches that led to the founding of African Methodist Episcopal movement in the 19th century and the opening of St. Paul Church in Cambridge, which in turn founded Hildebrand. We exist because the Black community is resilient, resourceful and empathic; these qualities are at the core of our work. We exist to improve the conditions that lead to family homelessness. It is our collective lived experience. We are keenly aware of our legacy and proud of Hildebrand’s place in history.
Hildebrand’s history is the foundation upon which we build brighter futures for families experiencing homelessness. We are committed – now more than ever – to continue working with, and on behalf of, vulnerable families in the fight for justice and equality. Hildebrand was born out of African Americans’ response to discrimination and inequality. Our work matters. Black Lives Matter.
CAMBRIDGE, MAY 22, 2020 – Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center is one of 130 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each through Cummings Foundation’s $20 Million Grant Program. The Cambridge-based organization was chosen from a total of 738 applicants during a competitive review process.
Hildebrand partners with families experiencing homelessness, to help them gain more self-sufficiency on their journey. As one of the largest family shelter providers in Massachusetts, Hildebrand endeavors to break the cycle of homelessness by providing shelter, permanent housing, training and work readiness programs, and life skills development.
“Hildebrand operates 135 units of emergency shelter, and helps families overcome the barriers to securing housing,” said Shiela Y. Moore, Hildebrand’s CEO. “We approach each family’s situation as unique and believe every family has strengths upon which to build a brighter future. In the past 10 years, 763 families have moved from shelter to housing so we know our strengths-based programming truly works. We impact the long-term housing stability of the most vulnerable members of our community.” Hildebrand operates 11 units of permanent housing and places over 70 families a year into affordable housing throughout the Greater Boston area.
The Cummings support will allow families to continue to receive stabilization services for two years after they leave the emergency shelter program to ensure they remain stably housed. The stabilization program is designed to prevent the recurrence of homelessness. When families transition into permanent housing, Hildebrand works with the head of household to ensure they stay on course with their plan to increase economic mobility and avoid the pitfalls that may put the family’s housing at risk. “We are so grateful for this leadership support from Cummings Foundation, who share our vision and commitment to restore hope and build brighter futures,” said Moore.
The Cummings $20 Million Grant Program supports Massachusetts nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate, Cummings Properties. Founded in 1970 by Bill Cummings, the Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 10 million square feet of debt-free space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation.
“We have been impressed, but not surprised, by the myriad ways in which these 130 grant winners are serving their communities, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Joel Swets, Cummings Foundation’s executive director. “Their ability to adapt and work with their constituents in new and meaningful ways has an enormous impact in the communities where our colleagues and leasing clients live and work.”
Cummings Foundation has now awarded more than $280 million to greater Boston nonprofits.
Social distancing requirements will prevent Foundation and grant winner representatives from convening for a reception at Trade Center 128 in Woburn, as planned, to celebrate the $20 million infusion into greater Boston’s nonprofit sector. Instead, Cummings Foundation expects hundreds of individuals to gather virtually for a modified celebration in mid-June.
The Cummings $20 Million Grant Program resulted from a merger of the Foundation’s two flagship grant programs, $100K for 100 and Sustaining Grants.
The Foundation and its volunteers first identified 130 organizations to receive grants of at least $100,000 each. Among the winners are first-time recipients as well as nonprofits that have previously received Cummings Foundation grants. A limited number of this latter group of repeat recipients will be invited to make in-person presentations in the fall, when public health related circumstances allow, proposing that their grants be elevated to long-term awards. Thirty such requests will be granted in the form of 10-year awards ranging from $200,000 to $500,000 each.
This year’s diverse group of grant recipients represents a wide variety of causes, including homelessness prevention, affordable housing, education, violence prevention, and food insecurity. The nonprofits are spread across 40 different cities and towns, and most will receive their grants over two to five years.
The complete list of 130 grant winners is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.
A great deal more information about Cummings Foundation is detailed in Bill Cummings’ self-written business book, “Starting Small and Making It Big: Hands-On Lessons in Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy.” The brand-new, and significantly updated, 6th edition is available on Amazon or cummings.com/book.
Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center partners with families experiencing homelessness. The organization endeavors to break the cycle of homelessness by providing shelter, permanent housing, training and work readiness program, and life skills development. Founded in 1988, the organization is the legacy of the social action ministry of St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge and was named to honor the regional bishop, Rev. Richard Allen Hildebrand, who authorized the rehabilitation of the former parsonage for use as a congregate shelter for homeless families. Since then, Hildebrand has been at the forefront of the movement to end family homelessness, and has grown to become one of Massachusetts’ leading family homelessness providers The organization shelters 135 families through scattered sites and congregate living programs, and operates 11 permanent affordable apartments, in the Greater Boston area. Learn more about Hildebrand at www.hild-selfhelp.org.
Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons retirement communities in Marlborough and Woburn, and Veterinary School at Tufts, LLC in North Grafton. Additional information is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.
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